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We couldn't manage without paper

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Paper touches every part of our lives. From the translucent tissues that wrap fragile fruit and the humble rolls that grace our washrooms to the proud bearers of our governing documents and proclamations of the milestones in our lives, paper accompanies us literally from birth to death.

Paper is one of the most sensuous materials known. From silky sheets to complex textures, it engages us fully. The eyes enjoy the shadow patterns on high-relief paper; the skin relishes the textures of satiny and rough papers; the scent of fresh paper evokes everything from grade-school homework to a special holiday; the distinctive snap of high-quality rag paper pleases the ear as much as the soft rustle of hoku paper.

Paper comes in numerous texturesThree contrasting paper textures: Left to right, cold-press watercolor, hot-press watercolor, and fabric- textured, all highlighted to show shadow pattern.

As much as I love my fountain pens and the luxurious feel of liquid ink ribboning across paper, I sometimes think they're only an excuse to stockpile all the papers with which I fall in love. Indeed, while my pens take up a fairly small amount of space, my paper takes up two or three whole cabinets... and every time I think it's under control, I find another paper that I just have to have.

In 30-some years of working with paper, ink, and words, when many enthusiasms have fallen by the proverbial wayside, my passion for all three has remained. Perhaps that's why I feel so strongly that a person should have distinctive stationery on which to exercise the most personal and expressive of skills—writing. Even if all you do is dash off a few notes to friends, good paper really adds to the sensuousness of the experience, and that's something we shouldn't miss in our technology-driven lives.

The same principles that apply to business stationery apply to your personal stationery design. It should command attention. It should, by its design and the paper it's on, deliver an unspoken message. It can be classically simple, baroque, whimsical, modern, plain, colorful, or any of a number of other things; its size can vary. Each choice will say something specific about its owner.

Kid and linen-finished papersPapers with kid (left) and linen finishes provide very different writing experiences.

The paper you choose says something about your personality and values. If your stationery will be used for hand-written correspondence, select a high grade of writing paper. The higher the "rag" content, the higher the quality (and the more expensive the paper). This is less important if you write with a rollerball or ball point, except for your own sense of satisfaction at handling high-quality paper and for the impression good paper makes on others.

If, however, you write with a fountain pen, a high-grade paper is critical. The longer fibers and precise, high-quality sizing will make your pen glide over the surface as if you were skimming over air. And a good paper simply feels luxurious and, as we said, adds to the writing experience.

Paper colorsThree colors and kinds of paper, these with cloth, plant, and bark fibers added.

At PaperPenalia, we use high-quality papers with attention to price. Most pen people would rather spend their hard-earned money on pens, and we understand that; but those who insist on using recycled and cheap papers are really robbing themselves of half the pleasure in the writing experience.

We test our papers for suitability with fountain pens of various brands, nib widths and ink flows. Anything that doesn't meet our standards doesn't get used. Though we can't possibly find one paper that suits every single person and every individual pen, we use papers that work well for the widest range of people, yet still don't break the bank.

We love textured papers, but many penfolk don't, often believing them unsuitable for fountain pens. However, some textures work well if they're judiciously applied to a high-quality paper. You may prefer a textured paper; you may prefer an ultrasmooth paper. You may find you like different kinds of paper with different pens. It's a highly individual choice.

Fabric-like unryu paperUnryu paper comes in many colors and has a wonderfully fabric-like drape, but it'd be murder on fountain pens.

The color you choose can also add impact to your personal statement. It can be subtle or bold. It can reinforce the impression you want to make, almost subliminally. You can mix, match, or contrast paper color with ink color to help reinforce your message.

Most writing-quality paper comes in a narrower range of colors than some of lesser quality, like brightly colored bond paper, because it's more costly and tends to be used by people who are serious about their writing stock.

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